Scott Burns (KNFP 11), Professor of Geology, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon
This article originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
Scott Burns Scott Burns’ enthusiasm for the mechanisms of the natural world is contagious. A professor of geology at Portland State University, Scott has taught in the field for 38 years and instilled an awareness and curiosity for geologic processes in hundreds of students.
”I’m passionate about inspiring others to develop a new set of eyes to see the natural world around them,” says Scott.
Recently, Scott took four students to the International Landslide Conference to introduce them to leaders in the field.
”It’s important that I help continue the legacy of leadership,” he says. ”I’m trying to develop leaders, not just teach them subject matter. I’m able to see the impact I’ve had on students’ lives, to see them ’get it’ and go on to have success after they graduate.”
Scott’s students couldn’t find a better mentor for leadership in their field. Currently, Scott belongs to 22 professional societies. In particular, his involvement in advancing awareness of engineering and environmental geology could be described as ”seismic.” Scott has served as the national president of the Association of Engineering Geologists, and is now vice president of the international association. He is also a prolific author on the subject.
In his own geo-zone, Scott serves as a resource on natural hazards in the Pacific Northwest. He lends his expertise on landslides and earthquakes to communities across the region and fields numerous inquiries from the media each year, responding to naturally occurring events. Scott often leads field trips for various groups to areas of geological significance, such as Mount St. Helens, the Columbia River Gorge, and the Oregon Coast. Regionally, Scott chaired the annual meeting of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers for the Pacific Northwest in 2007, and is chair of the Geology Section for the Oregon Academy of Science.
Outside his professional activities, Scott involves himself in efforts that help build community. On the Portland State campus of 25,000, he makes it a point to organize events that ”bring people together.” Currently he chairs the President’s Advisory Council and is president of the Sigma Xi chapter of scientific researchers. In 2007, he received the university’s George Hoffman Award for faculty excellence, with a particular dedication to students and the university.
Characteristically, his off campus activities are also numerous. Scott has presided over the Portland Downtown Rotary, and served on the boards of the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, the Sons and Daughters of the Oregon Pioneers, and much more.
”Every time I turn around, someone is asking me to chair this or that. But I like getting things done and getting other people enthused,” he explains.
His advice to aspiring leaders: ”Become a good listener, develop good communication skills, and don’t micro-manage.” Scott adds, ”The Rotarian motto is ’Service above self.’ It’s the foundation for the servant-type leader that I try to be.”